Escape Music ESM-076
Produced by: Anders Rydholm

Released: JULY 7 / Website
Relatives: Kansas, Styx, House Of Lords

  1. I Refuse
  2. Battle For Your Heart
  3. Zeroes And Ones
  4. The Prophecy Of The Returning Son
  5. Between Dark And Dawn
  6. Straight Face
  7. Gotta Give It Up
  8. Who's It Gonna Be?
  9. Positively Negative
  10. Blinded
  11. Itch My Brain

Grand Illusion are a nice bunch of Swedish lads that are upholding the finest tradition of glorious 70's and 80's pomp-AOR.
The likes of Kansas, Styx and House Of Lords come to mind when being blown away by the band's varied song deliveries, filled with multi layered harmonies, time and pace changes and over the top guitar and keyboard solos.
When comparing them to something similar today; Kharma, Shotgun Symphony and House Of Shakira come to mind.
But Grand Illusion are very much their own band. Previously known as Promotion for 2 albums and their current name already for one album, these guys have improved with every release and this record stands again as their best to date.
The high mark bestowed upon this release suggests it is an essential purchase. Well, yes....but I will state clearly that this style of music isn't for everyone. This is however, as fine as example of the genre you will find. But if pompous melodies, big keyboard and guitar solos and totally over the top vocals woven into a rich tapestry and delivered under the guise of an operatic musical appeals to you, then read on!
From the first Hammond drenched bars of the opening track, I Refuse you know this sounds a million bucks. This track has been available for download from the Newsdesk, I hope many are already familiar with it. There's a a bridge, a chorus and a follow up, with each part outdoing the previous.
The high-octane chorus is one of the best anthems of the year, but it just keeps building and building until it seems the speakers might cave in under the weight of the number of layers of vocals, backing harmonies and keyboard/guitar parts. Immense to say the least.
Battle For Your Heart is only just slightly more restrained. This song continues the uptempo start to the album and sounds like a classic pomp-ish Styx track until the multi-layered chorus hijacks us into Kansas territory and beyond. And once again, the longer the song progresses, the more layers that are added.
Zeroes And Ones is a little further restrained again - just to make sure things don't get out of hand! This is one of the more straight forward tracks of the album and is a mid-tempo feel good pop rock song. The chorus is again several layers deep.
The Prophecy Of The Returning Son is more guitar driven, with organ playing a supporting role. The song rocks along at a fine pace, with layered harmonies only appearing briefly in the verse and then the chorus. Like the last track, it's a little more straight forward than some of the more complex tracks.
Between Dark And Dawn is a beautiful ballad. Intro'd by an electronic piano, this song would be a worldwide hit if there was any justice. At home on any Styx album of the recent era, this song has great sentimentality to it, plus a wonderful vocal melody. The last minute of the track again threatens to explode the speakers, when a full blown choir joins the mix of layers. The lead vocals are just extraordinary.
The album runs seamlessly into the more uptempo rock track Straight Face. It's intro'd using the same piano sound mixed with a David Foster St. Elmo's Fire kind of feel. From that point onwards it becomes a rock track that U-Turns again come chorus time. A change of pace and the addition of more mulit-layered backing vocals makes this another anthem.
Gotta Give It Up is a classic 70's Styx rocker. The piano/guitar mix and the delivery of the chorus is classic. A more straight forward rocker after a couple of more operatic tracks.
One of my favourite songs of the album is Who's It Gonna Be?. This is a rock song of the highest order. Rocking from the start it just gets bigger and bigger in typical Grand Illusion style. The track is another Hammond drenched anthem. Not only that, it's as catchy as hell and is one of the only instant tracks of the album. And yet again, by the time the track gets close to finishing things are going completely over the top, with layers on top of layers, harmonies, choir's, it!
Positively Negative changes things again. It's a little darker, a little more restrained and a little more harder edged.
Blinded is one of the album's more straight ahead rock songs, uptempo, but not overly heavy. It almost sounds laid back in comparison to the other tracks, but it's not really.
Itch My Brain closes the album. This is another heavy, guitar driven number and a little darker in tone than the rest of the album. The chorus is much more subtle than other tracks, but on repeated listens becomes just as familiar.
BOTTOM LINE: Where do I start? Well listen to this album from start to finish you have to end of exhausted! It's a lot of fun and a wild ride.
I say again that the style won't be for everyone's tastes, but I just love the use of the multi-layered harmonies and multi-hook delivering approach undertaken by the band.
This album rocks, it's really quite heavy in places, with only one ballad on the album.
Credit to the guys for producing and mixing this album. It had to be a nightmare to get this all into place, but thankfully you can hear everything clearly and cleanly.
As far as pomp rock goes, this has a strong European feel to it, but will remain as a new benchmark for any band that follows.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Fans of pomp AOR and hard rock, fans of symphonic AOR and some fans of Styx and Kansas.
DISCOGRAPHY:Promotion - Not For Sale . Yeah, Yeah . Grand Illusion - The Book Of How To Make It . View From The Top

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